John Brennan: A Conspiracy Of None

Two e-mails from two Clinton supporters pass along this CNN brief about the company that employed a state dept. functionary who snuck a peak at Barack Obama's passport application.

Turns out that the owner of one of the companies is John Brennan, one of Barack Obama's chief advisers on intelligence policy. (The others are Lee Hamilton and Tony Lake.)


Actually, no.

It's more interesting that that. Let's broaden this out.

Brennan is one of many former intelligence community heavyweights to have started his own consulting firm after leaving the government. These firms employ hundreds of thousands of Americans in jobs requiring access to sensitive, Secret, Top Secret, or even Top Secret Codeword information.

There's a big debate in the community right now about contracting: how much oversight is enough? Should the contractors be subject to the same rules as federal employees? Are their jobs that contractors shouldn't do? Should the IC admit that it has outsourced many of our nation's most critical jobs to non-government employees?

Also: what's the quickest, safest and most efficient way to vet these employees.

In this case, the employee was subjected to a "national agency check," which is essentially what the Secret Service performs on folks whose friends get them those extra-special White House tours. That is, their names are run through federal databases to see if anything untoward pops out. Most "Secret" clearances are processed with a national agency check and only a little bit more investigation.

Most folks in the intelligence community want contractors to have easier access to raw intelligence products and have urged reform of the security clearance process. That's where another Brenann connection comes in. He's the chairman of INSA, the Intelligence and Security Alliance, a very well-regarded think tank consortium funded in part by companies who have IC business.

One wonders whether a President Obama would be more likely, or less likely, to support a more rational security clearance system after these indiscretions.

NB: Brennan was most recently in the news for breaking with Obama over telecom immunity. Brennan supports it; Obama does not.